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When Doves Cry

by

Prince



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Prince wrote this song for his movie Purple Rain. In the film, the song plays under a montage after his character loses his girl (Apollonia) to his rival (Morris - Morris Day of The Time). We see Prince riding his motorcycle along with shots of intimate moments with Apollonia. In the movie, Prince has a difficult relationship with his father, who beats his mom. Scenes of his father come in on the lyrics where Prince calls him "demanding."

The film is semi-autobiographical, but how much is based on real life remains a mystery, as Prince rarely gives interviews and doesn't talk about his personal life. In the movie, the song expresses his fear of becoming like his parents. When the doves cry, that's his musical refuge - the barrage of keyboards in the chorus represents the doves crying.
Besides writing and composing the track, Prince played all the instruments on the song. (thanks, Jordan - Brooklyn, NY)
There is no bass on this song. Prince took out the bass track at the last minute to get a different sound, though he hated to see it go.

"Sometimes your brain kind of splits in two - your ego tells you one thing, and the rest of you says something else. You have to go with what you know is right," he told Bass Player magazine.
In the US, this was the #1 song of 1984. It topped the charts for five weeks over the summer, and kept Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" at #2, preventing The Boss from ever having a #1 hit.
MC Hammer sampled this on his 1990 song "Pray," which was his last hit before dropping the "MC" and piling up mounds of debt as his lifestyle could not keep up with his cash flow.
Patti Smith recorded this for her 2002 retrospective album, Land 1975-2002. Her version was featured in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Other notable covers are from Razorlight and Damien Rice.
A version of this is sung by the choir in the 1996 film Romeo and Juliet. The movie was directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge), and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. (thanks, john - Cheshire, England)
Although there is no bass in this song and the percussion part is played entirely by drum machine, Prince's drummer and bassist from his band The Revolution still appear in the video, playing along (silently) on their instruments. (thanks, Robert - Berkeley, CA)
In 1997 Ginuwine released his remake of this song on his Ginuwine... The Bachelor album, adding some new beats to the sound. His version hit #10 in the UK. It was not, however, a hit with Prince. The singer encourages people to make their own music instead of covering someone else's songs, and he took offense to Ginuwine messing with the lyrics.

"I was just busting on him to bust him, but I was a little serious: Have some respect, man. If anyone tried to cover 'Respect,' by Aretha? I would shoot them myself!" Prince told Entertainment Weekly.
Degrassi: The Next Generation, which has a long tradition of naming episodes after '80s and '90s hits, used this song for a child abuse-themed episode involving Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) and his dad (Hugh Dillon) in 2002.
Peggy McCreary, Prince's engineer on this song, told Billboard about the day it was recorded and the singer's confidence that it would become a hit: "[Prince] took the bass out and he said, 'There's nobody that's going to have the guts to do this.' And he was smiling from ear to ear. He felt this was the best and he knew he had a hit song... so he decided to do something really daring. That's what Prince was all about."

McCreary also recalled Prince's exhausting recording process: "He would run through [a song] with just a piano and a vocal. And sometimes he'd do the drums and then the bass...The room was always set up and you had to be ready to do whatever he felt like doing. It was real spontaneous. You had to be there with him, which was the hard part and the exciting part. But when you're exhausted, it's hard to be excited. It was the longest I ever worked with anybody in my life. I worked around the clock, 24 hours. He said sometimes the only reason he went home was so I could sleep."
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Comments (19):

I really love this song I seem to relate to it. Prince is a great singer and the music to the song is incredible.
- kim, sparks, NV
DANG! This is a GREAT song! Gahhh...Prince can do nothing wrong! Makes me wanna sing along EVERYTIME!
- Megan, Stevenson, AL
Prince had help keeping Bruce from reaching #1; "The Reflex" by Duran Duran also topped the chart above "Dancing in the Dark" while it was struck at #2 for four weeks...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
joe buden also redid for "when thugs cry" which is about raising his son
- Kane, wytheville, VA
When Doves Cry is not about doves actually crying tears; it is a metaphor of the sound of two people screaming at each other. Ever noticed two people arguing from afar and all you can hear is screaming? Or have you ever seen a flock of birds flying and all of them are making that 'caw caw' sound that's so annoying? That's the feeling or rather sound he was trying to make a comparison to. The lyrics says "Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like when doves cry."
- Sam, New Orleans, LA
Interesting thoughts, Geo from MA.
- ma_cherie, little rock, AR
I think the 'no bass' thing may turn out to be an urban myth. Listen carefully and you can hear a sort of acoustic sounding bass throughout the track.
- Marc, London, China
Dimitri,
That is an hysterical comment about tear ducts. Great sense of humor!
- David, Youngstown, OH
To Eddie in Cleveland, Ohio, the movie never says if his father died or not, it just shows him in the bed with a bandage around his head with his Mother crying over him.
- Elisa, Decatur, AL
the way i see it, the concept of making a dove cry is similar to the concept "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (from the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird") -- this being that mockingbird's don't hurt anything, therefore it's a sin to kill one. similarly, it's a terrible thing to make doves, who are all about peace, cry.
Prince seems to be refering to himself as a dove (all about peace and love, and not harming anything). this is the most obvious in the line "don't make me chase you/ even doves have pride".
the chorus seems to be saying (to a lover, perhaps?) essentially "why are we fighting like this when all i want is love and peace? our fighting is one of the worst things in the world to me, i feel like it's similar to if a dove could cry"
just a couple thoughts
- Geo, Worcester, MA
This song is so ironic, doves are a symbol of peace, happiness and joy. For a dove to cry would mean that things are in a terrible state.
The song is about a relationship that didn't work out, a relationship similar to his parents relationship. He is comparing himself and his lover to his parents. Its also about being abandoned, and left alone in the world.
- Erin, Vancouver, Canada
The title of the song "When Doves Cry" is symbolic. When somebody dreams of a dove crying, it means that your father is going to die. In the movie "Purple Rain," The Kid's father kills himself, hence the title of the song.
- Eddie, Cleveland, OH
Pretty stupid song. I've never heard doves cry? Birds dont have tear ducts? randomest song title ever.
- Dimitri, Oklahoma, KS
Wow, can't believe he wrote it in 2 hours. I always took this song to be about being abandoned "how can you just leave me standing, alone in a world thats so cold."
- Jolene, Melbourne, Australia
A Canadian rock band called The Pursuit of Happiness covered this song for their 2005 greatest hits disc. Ironically the band started up in the eighties around the same time the original was released.
- Kenny, Toronto, Canada
The story is that the director of "Purple Rain" decided that a song was needed for the domestic abuse scene and asked Prince to come up with one (all other songs in the movie were already written and recorded). Prince wrote and recorded "When Doves Cry" in a less than two hours, entirely by himself. This was the only song on the soundtrack to be credited to "Prince" instead of "Prince and the Revolution"
- Ken, Louisville, KY
MC Hammer did this too... weird.
- AJ, Cleveland, GA
The winner of the first Australian Idol competition, Guy Sebastian, included a cover of this on his debut album.
- Stephanie, Glen Rock, PA
This song was also used in the movie "Romeo and Juliet".
- John, Lawrenceville, GA
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